Harold loved her, and that was all that mattered.
It’s hard to describe.
“An urban hermit”, you might say. If you were in a charitable, poetic mood. And if you were far enough back from the smell, the beard and his low-pitched mumbling-grumbling.
But hermit? Yes. Definitely. A world of perfect isolation in a churning sea of life.
His endless daytime/night-time routes back and forth across the city avoided crossing paths with the more upright, proper, linear population. He skirted round the squares and precincts, cut through the alleys and lingered in parks and on benches.
Crowds parted on his approach. Older children shied away in silence, the younger ones were shooed to one side by their elder protectors.
On day he saw her. In the street. Transfixed in the act of crossing. Her black and grey feathers splayed awkwardly across the tarmac, one wing snapped backwards across her back, standing proudly aloft. Her flattened beak and skull and guts formed a curious, beautiful, awkward palette.
He saw her and immediately he knew. He gently gathered her up into a well-worn, faded supermarket bag and, hardly daring to glance inside again until they were properly alone, scampered off.
Once safe behind his locked door, he set the bag down on the table, and slowly, carefully peeled back her crinkling plastic nest. And he looked in awe.
Caroline? She didn’t look like a Caroline. Nor a Josephine. Not a Leslie.
After the first few days, with familiarity, the issue of a name ceased to be important. He knew who he meant. There was no-one else to tell; and it was not a matter likely to concern her.
And assuming she was a “she”, with no real evidence either way, came naturally to him.
She didn’t need to be cared for. That was good. And fortunate. For both he, and she (for that matter), were well beyond caring. They were just there. Together.
He lived with her for just over one year, through the seasons of her decay.
The spring of new life; the vigorous commotion of summer; liquid autumn; and crisp, bone-dry days of winter.
A lifetime in a year.
Then one day, months later, he went out. And never returned.